Courage In Maitri

[one_third][/one_third][two_third_last padding=”5% 0 0 0″]In all of her eloquence, Ann Whittaker brings us some inspiring words and thoughts around developing a kind and friendly relationship with ourselves as we approach the end of Aries Season; a season all about recognizing ourselves.

Developing loving kindness + friendship with ourselves

MAITRI: unconditional friendliness, loving kindness, love

What if the bravest, most meaningful, most powerful thing we could do was to befriend ourselves? To show ourselves a deep and honest love? What if we began to cultivate a curiosity about every aspect of ourselves? What if we took time to get to know our whole selves–to know who we are when we’re sad, when we’re content, when we’re angry, when we crash and burn, when we forget to call a friend, when we welcome a stranger into our midst, when we take time to listen to a broken heart? What does it take to really show ourselves unconditional loving kindness? What does it mean to befriend ourselves?

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[two_third padding=”8% 0 0 0″]Stay. We must stay with ourselves––our whole self. Pema Chödrön says that

Maitri strengthens us. One of the qualities of maitri is steadfastness, and that’s developed through meditation. So through boredom, through aches, through indigestion, through all kinds of disturbing memories, to edgy energy, to peaceful meditation, to sleepiness, it’s steadfastness. You sit with yourself, you move closer to yourself, no matter what’s going on. You don’t try to get rid of anything—you can still be sad or frustrated or angry. You recognize your humanity and the wide gamut of emotions you might be feeling.

I think it is difficult to stay with ourselves–especially when we are feeling intense emotions–especially when so many planets are in retrograde and everything is undefineably off. Parts of ourselves might show up that we’re not fond of, and, yet, if we stay with these pieces, if we befriend the bits that make us human, we will find strength where we thought there was weakness; we will move closer to ourselves and accept our complex humanity. If we allow ourselves to experience the full spectrum of emotion, and allow ourselves to travel along the spectrum of sadness, anger, joy, and gratitude, we will open ourselves up to loving kindness. [/two_third][one_third_last][/one_third_last]

[one_sixth][/one_sixth][two_third]When we accept our own humanity it’s easier to accept others’ humanity–we are curious about them as well as ourselves. Instead of practicing self-criticism and self-doubt, we can begin to nurture self-curiosity––become intensely interested in observing yourself and simply let your emotions and thoughts run their course. Nothing is permanent. Thankfully. We do not have to cling to or identify with any emotion we’re feeling. When we’re feeling sadness, that does not mean we are a sad person––it simply means we are human. If we can love ourselves even when we are angry, jealous, or sad then we can love others when they too experience the ebb of happiness.[/two_third][one_sixth_last][/one_sixth_last]

[one_third][/one_third][two_third_last padding=”7% 0 0 0″]So how can we show ourselves loving kindness? Pema Chödrön explains:

For example, you might say that taking a bubble bath or getting a workout at the gym is maitri. But on the other hand, maybe it isn’t, because maybe it’s some kind of avoidance; maybe you are working out to punish yourself. On the other hand, maybe going to the gym is just what you need to relax enough to go on with your life with some kind of lightheartedness. Or it might be one of your 65 daily tactics to avoid reality. You’re the only one who knows.

I think it’s difficult to admit that you are on a journey to love yourself unconditionally. So take courage. Practice maitri for yourself so that you will have the strength to share maitri with others. Be real and honest with yourself––you are a human being running the full gamut of experiences and emotions. No one is exempt, no matter how hard you try to mask it. Own it and take care.

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Balancing Libra: How to Cultivate More Beauty

[two_third][/two_third][one_third_last]Finding Beauty through Balance, Equality, & Elegance by Ann Whittaker

This is me–my sun sign is Libra. You would think this would be a breeze to explore and write about, right? I thought so, too. And, boy, was I dead wrong. Why? But, really, why?

Maybe because the first thing you read about your own damn sun sign is that it’s the sign that rules relationships, marriage, and weddings–turns out I went through a divorce over a year ago. How’s that Libra working out for me now? Marriage? Not so much. Relationships? My familial relationships with my mom and siblings are enviable. My women friends are my secret coven who take great care of my heart. I buy it. I know it. Libras lean heavily on relationships.
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[full_width]Perhaps that’s why my divorce was so devastating. The balance shifted. But I eventually found the balance again in all the other remarkable people in my life–because give and take is the rhythm I seek and cultivate. And, truly, I still love going to weddings. I admit it, I’m your typical Libra: Hopeless Romantic in Chief. Thank you, Venus.

With that out of the way, we can talk about the other things I love about being a Libra, and how all of us can cultivate our Libra side.

Beauty

“When our eyes are graced with wonder, the world reveals its wonders to us. There are people who see only dullness in the world and that is because their eyes have already been dulled. So much depends on how we look at things. The quality of our looking determines what we come to see.”
-John O’Donohue

Beauty is my word of all words. I live by it; I crave it; I seek it. This is no artificial or empty beauty–it’s a beauty that comes deep from the roots. Beauty is the perfect balance of bitter, sweet, and savory in a meal; beauty is the sound of aspen trees quaking in the wind; beauty is one line perfectly intersecting another creating a harmonizing composition; beauty is a simple voice singing a simple tune.

Beauty, let it be noted, is not unblemished perfection–that would tip the scales out of balance! Beauty is wholeness–all of it. I often tell my dear friends, “I love you. Every bit.” And I mean it. They are beautiful to me, every bit.

Cultivate Beauty:
1. Send three friends an unsolicited text that says, “I love you. Every bit.”
2. What have you seen today in nature that was so beautiful it resonated to your very core? List five things.
3. Write down the last time something moved you to tears or to laughter it was so beautiful.

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[full_width]Equality & Diplomacy

I was that university student who went to every protest, signed every petition, and lectured my family weekly about how we can’t support unfair labor practices in any way, shape, or form. It broke my heart as I inhaled books and articles about the violence women and children experience on this planet–ecofeminism was a no-brainer for me. Equal opportunity was and is my mantra. If someone isn’t playing by the rules, or they’ve created unfair rules, you better get ready for a storm because I won’t stand for it, and I’ve got karma on my side.

As I’ve aged, thankfully, my diplomatic side has also grown to balance out the scales. I love a good debate about issues surrounding justice and equality. Both sides are fascinating to me, but, of course, equality wins in my heart and mind every time. Keep in mind, equality and justice come at a price, and your Libra side loves a good fight for a good cause.

Cultivate Equality & Diplomacy:

1. Identify an issue where you see an injustice concerning something you care about deeply. How can you participate to encourage more equality in your circles of influence?
2. Figure out a way to approach the topic diplomatically next time you have a discussion. Have fun trying to see it from both sides. Put yourself in the other side’s shoes–at least for a moment.[/full_width]

[one_half]Elegance

I cannot describe how refreshing elegance is for a Libra: an almost bare room with just one blooming flower in its center; an unadorned piece of music; an honest line of poetry. No clutter, no distractions, no overstimulation–just the true essence of a thing or a person.

The best word I’ve come across to define what elegance means to me is the Japanese word “shibui” – an honest, minimal, quiet, unassuming, and unadorned feeling. No wonder I am drawn to poetry. Of course I prefer minimalist classical music or a straightforward bossa nova. Then there’s autumn–season where the leaves begin to fall and everything becomes bare again. And, and, thank the trend gods for making all-white décor a thing again.

Experience Elegance:

1. Listen to Arvo Pärt’s Silentium.
2. Listen to W.S. Merwin, poet, read his “Rain Light” or read it here.
3. Go for a walk in the woods. Take nothing with you. No music, no books, no one. Enjoy just walking–one thing. Notice how elegant walking truly is.
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